UK faces ‘significant’ shortage of farmland by 2030

Jun 26, 2014

By Matt McGrath

 

Britain is running out of land for food and faces a potential shortfall of two million hectares by 2030 according to new research.

The report, from the University of Cambridge, says the growing population plus the use of land for energy crops are contributing to the gap.

It criticises the government’s lack of a coherent vision on how to make the most of UK farm land.

The authors warn that tough choices may need to be made on future land use.

The total land area of the UK amounts to over 24 million hectares with more than 75% of that used for farming.

While self sufficient in products like barley, wheat, milk, lamb and mutton, the UK still imports large amounts of fruit and vegetables and other farm products including pork.

Overall the UK runs a food, feed and and drink trade deficit of £18.6bn.

Under pressure

With a population expected to exceed 70 million by 2030, the extra demand for living space and food will have a major impact on the way land is used, the report says.

On top of these pressures, the government is committed to using bioenergy crops such as miscanthus as renewable sources of energy, further limiting the stock of land for food.

“That is putting some very significant future pressures on how we use our land,” said Andrew Montague-Fuller, the report’s lead author.

“If you look at the land that is required under some of the bioenergy projections made by the Department for Energy and Climate Change, that could potentially take some significant chunks of land.”

Another factor is the EU, in the shape of the Common Agricultural Policywhich now requires farmers to put more land aside to protect nature.

“They are meeting one of the objectives but maybe hurting some of our other objectives like growing more food, and biomass type crops,” said Mr Montague-Fuller.

4 comments on “UK faces ‘significant’ shortage of farmland by 2030

  • @OP – With a population expected to exceed 70 million by 2030, the extra demand for living space and food will have a major impact on the way land is used, the report says.

    What a surprise! A small island which is largely occupied, does not have capacity for an ever increasing population! Who would have thunk it??? The politically brain-dead want to ignore the population problem and fiddle with the symptoms!

    On top of these pressures, the government is committed to using bioenergy crops such as miscanthus as renewable sources of energy, further limiting the stock of land for food.

    Biol-fuels are indeed reducing capacities for food production and conservation of biodiversity. They are not very appropriate in Britain where there is a shortage of farm land.
    If they must grow biofuels in the UK, willow wood chips are probably more suitable than Miscanthus, as willow can be grown an harvested on rough ground which is less suitable for food crops. Waste or scrap wood is an even better source.

    What is needed is a rapid move to hydrogen fuelled and electric powered vehicles, with the electricity derived from tidal, wind, and thorium nuclear generation.

    http://www.richarddawkins.net/2014/06/japan-plans-ample-support-for-fuel-cell-car-technology/

    With electric trains, trams, and trolley buses for public transport in cities, also running on this carbon-free electricity.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_bus

    Unfortunately, the utterly lacking in vision, carbonaceous, gas-fracking, Cameron government, has not only bocked tidal projects suggested by the previous government, but cut the research grants into developing tidal power in England.

    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2009/jan/26/severn-barrage-tidal



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  • @OP – “If you look at the land that is required under some of the bioenergy projections made by the Department for Energy and Climate Change, that could potentially take some significant chunks of land.”

    As was shown in this earlier discussion, tidal and wave power, can tap into vast quantities energy without using any onshore land, apart from a few grid power-lines.

    http://www.richarddawkins.net/2014/04/power-from-the-oceans-blue-energy/

    It can also provide marine no-take zones, where fish-stocks can recover due to the exclusion of boats with fishing nets or dredges.



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  • 3
    inquisador says:

    As Alan said. +1.

    Population level has to be addressed. Since the seventies the level has levelled out, so to speak, due to all kinds of factors.

    But now there are communities of people here from places where normal birth-rates are often higher and where mothers are still expected to stay home and have kids rather than to maybe work, in combination with just 1 or two kids. Big cultural differences in some cases.

    Ideally we should be self-sufficient in food products. Or at least capable of becoming so. As the greenbelt and National Parks come under pressure, with the current demands for millions more houses; new towns and cities; just say no can do; no more room.



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  • Though I’m not very acquainted with today’s problems of British agriculture, I think energy crops are more strategic to Britain’s security than fruit and vegetables that can be easily imported at a much lower price, from the Mediterranean Basin and Latin America, than producing these foodstuffs at home. When I lived in Britain back in the 1960s, the above foodstuffs plus meat from New Zealand and Argentina were cheaper than British products. The imports of energy crops would be perhaps more expensive and would make Britain more fragile and dependent.



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